FAQ: CITES COP17 Johannesburg, South Africa

citesWhat is CITES?

CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.  It is the only international and legally-binding treaty to control the trade in endangered species.

In 1963 members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union) adopted a resolution from which CITES was drafted. On 3 March 1973 80 countries agreed the text of the convention and on 1 July 1975 CITES entered in force.

Member States adhere to the agreement voluntarily but States that have agreed to be bound by the convention must implement any agreements and adopt domestic legislation to enforce CITES at a national level.

Species listed on CITES will be listed on one of three appendices. Appendix II includes species in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival (i.e. sustainable trade).

CITES now has 182 Parties (States that have agreed to be bound by the convention).

cop17What is COP17?

COP stands for Conference of the Parties. Every two to three years, a meeting of the Conference of the Parties is held to review, discuss, and negotiate changes in the implementation of CITES, including changes in protections for certain species. This year, the 17th conference will take place (hence COP17) between 24th September – 5th October 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Why do we need CITES?

International trade in wildlife is worth billions and crosses borders so cooperation and agreement between countries is essential to safeguard certain species from over exploitation. It is especially important, as many threatened marine species are highly migratory, swimming vast distances across national boundaries. It is only by nations working together that a sustainable future will exist for them.

What are Appendix I, II & III?

Appendix I lists species that are threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except in exceptional circumstances.

Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.

Appendix III list species included at the request of a Party that already regulates trade in the species and that needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation.

Previous significant CITES victories for marine life

1981: All sea turtles are listed under Appendix I

2002: Whale sharks are listed under Appendix II

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2013: The oceanic whitetip shark, three species of hammerhead sharks (scalloped, smooth, and great), the porbeagle shark and both species of manta ray were listed under Appendix II

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What’s happening this year?

Alongside many other species of flora and fauna, all species of devil rays (mobula rays), silky sharks, 3 species of thresher shark and all nautilus species are being proposed to be protected under CITES Appendix II.

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Where can I find out more?

CITES has a comprehensive website if you want to find out more details about them.

Many organisations are campaigning for the marine species being proposed at this year’s conference. Through social media you can find out more about what individual organisations are doing. Explore these hashtags…

#COP17 #LOVEMiniMantas #Divers4SharksNRays #SharkStanley

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